Apologies for using this site for personal use... I note Janette Sayle is mentioned here and her Godson is trying to reconnect with her. If anyone can assist, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks and sincere regards, Adam Lacey
I never won too many arguments at our house over the years growing up with three state debating champions. There was one point, however, that I did prove Mum wrong on. As a child rather enthusiastically kicking and passing a ball around the park and yard, playing with it in the house and even sleeping with it on occasion – it was accompanied by the refrain “ Study – you’ll never make a career out of football” For the last twenty years I took great delight in pointing out that on this occasion I had actually got it right and she was always happy to acknowledge that. I guess one win in fifty years isn’t something to really skite about that much! But this story goes to highlight one of Mum’s great qualities. Whatever we’ve done in life – whatever choices we’ve made – Mum was always totally supportive, and that extended to not only Adrian and I but our families as well One thing mum took great pride in was her cooking and with good cause. It came to her easily and she was talented in the kitchen well before the days of Ironchef and Masterchef which she loved watching in her later years. I found out that I could get in Mum’s good books with some strategically placed praise for her cooking. Normally a very positive approach that helped me many times when in trouble but it came back to bite me one day when I praised to the heavens this wonderful new vegetable that she’d prepared. What I didn’t know was that One – Chockos were so readily available Two – Chockos were so bland & Three – Chockos could be prepared in so many ways! So after fifty years of love and support what comes of it. I credit both my parents for instilling in us a strong work ethic, a social conscience, an empathy of others, a great tolerance, an understanding of the art of compromise and a set of values that has stood us in great stead. Mum had a great impact on many and that has been reflected in the people that have attended today and the ones who have written so kindly and called so genuinely to the family. We can truly say that the world as a little bit better place for her life and we should rejoice in that.
IT WAS SAD TO READ ABOUT TOTTI IN YOUR EULOGY NOTES. SHE SEEMED SHE WAS A LOVELY LADY AND ENJOYED LIFE. WHAT A SAD LOSS, I DONT THINK SHE WOULDVE LIKED YOU TO BE SAD FOR LONG ONLY TO THINK OF HER IN GOOD MEMORIES.
Totti Cohen A.M., O.B.E., B.A., Ll.B Anyone who remembers by dear wife as Teofila was probably at Infants School with her, because even her mother decided early on that it was a bit of a mouthful. As the famous operatic soprano Toti del Monte was visiting Sydney at the time, her parents decided that Totti was a nice diminutive for their daughter and the name stuck with her throughout her whole lifetime. Born in 1932 to Polish migrants Stanley and Adel Kaplun, she liked to boast that she was born in Paddington in the days when no-one admitted they came from Paddo, the home of the razor gangs and other Sydney characters of the time. While she was enrolled in Paddington Primary School her mother didn't like the 'bad language' she was picking up there, and so Totti spent a year or two at St. Patricks Catholic School but later returned to Paddington Primary. A year at Woollahra Opportunity school followed, and then because her parents moved to Toongabbie she started her secondary education at Parramatta High, followed by Sydney Girls High when Ada and Stanley finally settled in Bondi. Here she showed her true colours with a brilliant Leaving Certificate matriculation which included First Class Honours in English, History and Latin, and in fact she topped the State in History. A well-deserved Scholarship enabled her to attend Sydney University, where she achieved both an Arts and a Law Degree. She always recognised that the State had given her the opportunity for tertiary education, and throughout her long and successful career she devoted much of her time to repaying that debt. During her University days she met me, quite by accident as it happened, and it didn't take much imagination to realise that we were destined for each other.We married in 1956 and she started her legal career with a firm called Jenkins & Harmer where there happened to be a vacancy because Keith Harmer had gone overseas for a time. When he eventually returned there was no room for her and so she looked around for another firm who would be willing to take on a relatively inexperienced solicitor, and a female to boot. She didn't know where to start so I asked her which was the top firm in Sydney and she replied Minter Simpsons. I then said "Ring them", to which she replied "You just don't ring a firm like Minters and asked for a job over the phone", but I persisted, and as it happened they were desperate for a new solicitor and they offered her a job almost on the spot. As it turned out, she was the very first female solicitor this old and distinguished firm had ever employed. After two very happy years there she moved on to an all-female practice. It was now 1960 and we hoped to start a family, but without much success, and then suddenly a close family friend and gynaecologist rang to say he had a little boy just begging to be adopted and to our great joy David became ours. No sooner had he settled in than Totti blithely announced "I'm pregnant", and so we gained two wonderful children just 8 months apart! Although out of the workforce for a few years, Totti made sure she contributed to the community whenever she could. Following my mother's lead, she became involved in the National Council of Jewish Women and edited their Bulletin for some time. She helped as a driver for Meals on Wheels, and both of us served for a couple of years on the Jewish Board of Deputies. Always a keen reader, she devoured books at an astonishing rate, be they erudite history texts or murder mysteries. She loved classical music, and we subscribed to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra concert series throughout our married life, reluctantly giving up our seats only when the Opera House authorities made it impossible to arrive and depart by taxis just 2 or 3 years ago. With little prospect of returning to Law with two small boys to bring up, she decided a teaching career might better fit in with her new life-style, so she enrolled as an external Dip. Ed. student at the University of New England. She was making good headway until the time came for some practice teaching and she discovered this was only available north of Tamworth. Disaster, and the possibility of a teaching career sank without trace! In mid-1963 boss, Frank Jenkins rang in a panic one day to say his partner had "shot through" taking $2,000.00 of clients' money from the Trust Account with him, and could she possibly come in for a few weeks until he sorted things out? So off she went to her old city office with 2-year old Adrian on her knee, He quickly endeared himself by, for example, stuffing the wrong key into the office safe which held all the current files and a locksmith had to be called in to save the day. Two weeks later Frank called in sick, and within a matter of days he unfortunately died, leaving Totti holding the fort on her own. With her customary skill and common sense she not only kept the practice going but actually bought it from Frank's widow by November of that same year and continued in her chosen career until ill-health finally led to her retire in June 2010. But her real contribution to the community came not from Law but through her involvement with the public education system. Starting with the P&C of Coogee Public as soon as our 2 boys were enrolled there, she soon found a cause to which she could devote her skills and energy over the next two decades. Rising swiftly though the ranks at local, District and Regional level, within a few years she found herself President of the Federation of Parents & Citizens Associations of NSW, a position she held with great distinction from 1973 until 1980. During this time she was truly the visible face of parents in State schools and worked tirelessly in the cause of community involvement in every aspect of education. At the end of her term as President she became the first parent representative on the newly-established Education Commission and remained on that body until it was wound up 6 years later. Her contribution to the field of public education was recognised by being made an OBE in 1978 and a Member of the Order of Australia in 1987. On being asked how she came by these Honours she often quipped that it was easier for the Government to give her a Gong than to pay her for the time and effort she put into the many committees on which she served. My mother, the late Vera Cohen had been awarded an MBE and she used to say that not many mothers were out-ranked by their daughter-in-law! A true measure of the respect in which Totti was held by "the establishment" was demonstrated in 1980. The Department of Education, in conjunction with the P&C Federation, hosted a Dinner in the new Masonic Centre in Goulburn Street ‘to celebrate the Centenary of the NSW Department of Education and to honour the retirement of Mrs. Totti Cohen, OBE, as President of the Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of NSW’, to quote from the official invitation. It was a splendid occasion, held in the presence of His Excellency the Governor, Sir Roden Cutler, and attended by more than 300 people including many distinguished members of the Government, the Dept. of Education, teachers and eduction leaders, and of course representatives from P&C Associations from across the State. In 1968 a strong community protest about the huge amounts of money being given by the government to private schools to the detriment of State schools led to the founding of the Defence of Government Schools organisation, known universally as DOGS. For the State elections of 1969 DOGS decided to field candidates across the State and Totti stood in the seat of Phillip, with no real expectations of defeating Bill Aston, the Speaker of the House, but purely as a protest against State Aid. The result of the voting in Phillip was fascinating, and it developed into a real cliff-hanger. Totti had scored 2.3% of the total vote, and beaten four other hopefuls. With nine candidates standing, the distribution of preferences was a nightmare, and when, after more than a week, it was finally confirmed that Aston had retained his seat by a bare 440 votes Totti boasted that it was her preferences that put the Speaker back on his seat. As well as working in her own legal practice Totti served as a part-time member of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal for several years, followed by 18 years with the Consumer, Trading and Tenancy Tribunal. In addition, she chaired the NSW Privacy Committee from 1983 to 1993. So what is Totti's legacy after 78 years? Firstly of course are our two wonderful sons, of whom we are both justifiably proud, and without whose support I don't know how I would have coped with the past few months. And that pride and love extends naturally to Liz and our beautiful grandchildren, Robert and Amy, and to Adrian's partner, Carolyn. Then comes her legacy to public education. There will be thousands of parents who will not know the name Totti Cohen these days but nevertheless through her vision and leadership they now have a significant role in the State education system. Before her, most parents were seen merely as fund-raisers – they ran the tuckshop and organised lamington drives. Now they are real partners in education, and although the level of community involvement is not as high as she would have wanted, nevertheless they make real inputs at all levels of the education system. It is interesting to note that during her time with the P&C Federation Totti worked closely with no less than 9 Ministers for Education and 5 Directors-General of the Department of Education, and this legacy lives on even if not always recognised. She laid strong foundations in parent and school interaction which ultimately benefit all children in the State school system. This is indeed a proud legacy. In thanking all of you who have come here today to remember Totti I must pay a special tribute to our close friend and neighbour Janette Sayle, who decided a long time ago that she was Totti's personal chauffeur and drove her to countless medical appointments and hospital visits. Nothing was too much trouble for Janette and we appreciate her help beyond words. I must also pay a heartfelt tribute to both the nursing and the medical staff of the Intensive Care Unit at Prince of Wales Hospitality. Their concern was always for Totti's comfort and dignity throughout the weeks she was in their care, and we as a family truly appreciate their efforts. Now I invite you all in your imagination to raise a glass of wine to your lips and drink a toast "To Totti, long may her memory live."
Year Details 1948 Graduated Sydney Girls High School 1956 Married Neville Albert Cohen 1956 Graduated Sydney University Faculty of Law 1956 Admitted as a Solicitor to NSW Bar 1960 David Alexander Cohen born 1961 Adrian John Cohen born 1963 Purchased “F. W. Jenkins & Co., Solicitors” 1969 Town Hall Rally against State Aid – beginning of D.O.G.S. Party 1969 Election Day – Totti not elected! 1973 Elected President Federation of Parents & Citizens Associations of NSW (“P&C”) 1974 Appointed to NSW Education Advisory Commission 1977 Made Submission to Australian Broadcasting Tribunal on Self Regulation 1977 Publication of “The Education of the Talented Child” 1978 Awarded OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) 1978 Appointed Foundation Trustee of the Randwick Community Centre 1979 Instrumental in parents being given input to Children’s TV Tribunal for the first time 1979 Appointed to NSW Dept. Education Pupil Disciple & Behaviour Enquiry 1979 Appointed to NSW Child Welfare Advisory Council (NSW CWAC) 1979 Appointed to NSW Board of Senior Schools Studies (NSW BSS) 1979 Instigated first 2SER educational broadcast by P&C Federation 1980 Publication of “Self-Discipline & Pastoral Care” 1980 First Parent Representative on the newly-formed NSW Education Commission 1980 Retired as NSW P&C Federation President with State Banquet 1983 Chairman NSW Privacy Committee from 1983 to 1993 1984 Member NSW Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) until 2000 1986 Final meeting of the NSW Education Commission 1986 Final meeting of NSW CWAC 1987 Re-appointed Chairman of NSW Privacy Committee for further 3-year term 1987 Awarded AM (Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia) 1992 Appointed to NSW Residential Tenancy Tribunal (RTT), later called the NSW Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) 1995 Practice changed to name of “T. Cohen, Solicitor” 1997 Stepped down as Hon. Solicitor Kingsford Maroubra Hebrew Congregation after 33 years 2006 Made Life Member of NSW Law Society on 50th anniversary of her admission 2006 50th Wedding Anniversary 2010 Retired from legal practice
No-one likes funerals. But funnily enough, at a funeral I attended recently, I turned to my mate whose mother had passed away afterward and said “I’m really glad I came…… I had no idea your mum had achieved so much”. I feel a bit like that today……… though I had known my mother for the best part of 50 years there are things that I am still learning, and still hearing for the first time. Who said I never listen??? Yeah, OK, almost everyone. What a strong generation of women my mother was born into….those that grew into adulthood as the echoes of the Great War faded, filled with a sense of both liberation and yet, paradoxically, they were tethered to the past. They remembered the Holocaust from relatives who did and did not make it out of Europe. They remembered the depression from parents who endured it’s hardships. They remembered the political uncertainties of the 50s and 60s by growing to maturity and having decisive roles as these years unfolded. And like Elizabeth Evatt, one of mum’s lifelong friends who spoke just before, they grew up smart and strong. Sensitive, compassionate and able, and yet with a sense of humility and understanding that us “young folks” are still too full of hubris to even realise we lack!!! We’ve had it easy…because they paved the way. Totti Cohen was a woman like that. Successfully juggling a husband (yes, Neville is indeed a Circus Act at times!!!), a career, a family and an overwhelming sense of Public Duty which saw her respected and admired. It still amazes me the number of people who tell me they took their inspiration from her, and achieved more in their lives through what she gave of herself. She was certainly generous of spirit. Smart and intelligent, yet able to work in the school tuckshop with the rest of the mothers, and then outgrow the tuckshop and gravitate to the grander stage of State School Education and the Parents and Citizens Federation, and even a stint of politics. A small plea here…….. if anyone actually possesses the most embarrassing photo of all time of the “candidate’s family” from her 1969 Election Campaign I’ll pay you double the best offer you get on eBay to have it destroyed!!!! And all the time she could still find time and enjoyment in cooking, reading, entertaining, her family, card games, scrabble, crosswords and, I’m turning the clock back here…….. even driving. As kids she drove Dave and I to Randwick Central under 7’s and stood as bemused then as she would be today by this strange thing called Rugby. As we grew older and more independent she’d wait at home anticipating the worse, and helping to patch up the scars. Past school age, she’d still wait, and endured news of our more “grown up” adventures, and sometimes the scars were covering broken bones ….. not sure she or dad will forget Dave’s “Goulburn College Years”. But good things did come of that time too, and she’s sitting next to him now with their kids…….. Liz, its never easy coming into a family of Matriarchs but there can be little doubt you’ve earned your place amongst them and mum would proudly pass her baton onto you. Mum adored Liz, as she did my wonderful partner Carolyn who has returned twice from Geneva to be by my side. She also loved my previous partner Susan and Saxon who filled important years in my life. Mum and Dad were never prideful folk, but they were certainly proud of us, whatever we did, however dumb it might have been and sometimes despite our thoughtlessness or immaturity. Mum stood by us, believed in us, encouraged us. And that level of generosity is perhaps the greatest measure of her life. She certainly achieved amazing things and she paved her own way. When we were planning today, we wanted to this to be a celebration of mum’s life rather than a dirgeful affair. We ask you to remember her in all her formidable glory, the sharp wit, ready humour, incisive intelligence and bright glint in her eyes. Though we have tried to avoid the saccharine-sweet sentiments and empty poetry that often surround gatherings such as this, I was drawn to the words of the flower child Joni Mitchell, whose music mum probably didn’t even like, but can’t help feel is both concise and apt: “don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone”